Wed. Aug 21st, 2019

Courtney Pieters’ murder turns the spotlight on violence against women and children in South Africa

Courtney pieters Mortimer SaundersIn May 2017, the body of three-year-old Courtney Pieters was found in Cape Town.

courtney pieters murder turns the spotlight on violence against women and children in south africa - Courtney Pieters’ murder turns the spotlight on violence against women and children in South Africa

Courtney Pieters - Courtney Pieters’ murder turns the spotlight on violence against women and children in South Africa

Today at the Western Cape High Court, 19 months later, her murderer Mortimer Saunders received two life sentences.

The court heard how Saunders was annoyed when the child woke him to watch TV in his room. From his own lips, they heard how Saunders was compelled by the annoyance – as well as wanting revenge on her mother – to feed the toddler ant poison.

He also raped her, although the court could not determine if it took place before or after her death. Her body was found nine days later. Disturbing CCTV footage emerged which shows Saunders walking through the streets of Epping Industria in Cape Town with Pieters’ body in a bag.

“The nature, brutality and callousness of the crime shows the accused has no regard for other people.”  

Western Cape High Court Judge Babalwa Mantame. 

The video was received from the court and published on TimesLive. It can be seen below but please note, the video is graphic. 

A larger social problem 

While the case shocked the country, and rightfully so, violence against women and children still increases every year. Heinous acts like these are committed on a regular basis, and many victims won’t find justice.

Women and children are tortured and murdered, their bodies tossed into ditches or buried in shallow graves. Women and children are raped and abused and violated.

Karabo Mokoena’s body was also found in May 2017, after her boyfriend killed her and burned her remains. Her murderer, Sandile Mantshoe, was sentenced to 32 years in prison. In November, Nicholas Ninow was accused of raping a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant in Silverton, Pretoria.

A Soweto school guard was accused of sexually assaulting 87 students at AB Xuma Primary school in October 2017, some as young as seven. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a police forensic investigator sent to interview two of the students aged seven and eight, molested them instead.  

No end in sight

We are tired. Women are tired. The cycle of abuse against women and children has to change. Something has to change. Six months ago, women united and took to the streets for The Total Shutdown marches. The aim was to raise awareness against the massive rise in violence against women and children.

We share helpline numbers, and our stories, and make sure the women in our lives arrive at their destinations after taking an Uber or other means of public transport. We check in with each other all the time and go into a panic when a friend or relative doesn’t respond to a message quick enough.

Our minds immediately go to “Was she raped? Is she alive?” And it so very tiring. Yes, there are measures in place, but is it enough? I am reminded of Jennifer Lopez’s character in Enough, after being told to get a restraining order against her abusive husband, saying:

“What’s that? A little piece of paper that says he can’t come around? And when he comes around, what does she do, throw it at him?”

Victims of abuse or those who witness it can report it at the nearest police station, or call the toll-free Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or Gender Based Violence toll-free number 0800 428 428. Childline can be reached on 0800 055 555.

Alternatively, the TEARS Foundation is an NPO specialising in the assistance and support network for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. They can be reached on 010 590 5920 or *134*7355#

Watch: Mortimer Saunders dumping Courtney Pieters’ body in Epping Industria

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